***Update***: The charity is still refusing to accept the atheist group’s money on principle. That’s $11,500 (and counting) that won’t go to needy children because of stubbornness on the part of the charity’s leadership.
Matt Wilbourn, an atheist living in Muskogee, Oklahoma, tried donating $100 to a home for local children (many of whom are orphans), but his money was rejected by the organization after they learned his contribution was made on behalf of a local atheist organization.
It started on Monday when a staffer at the Murrow Indian Children’s Home came to Matt’s workplace in order to print up some programs for an upcoming charity drive. For the past few years, his company had been printing those programs for free as an act of goodwill, but Matt was told by his employer they wouldn’t be doing that again this year.
Matt felt bad because he thought the Children’s Home was an organization worth supporting, so he figured he would make a contribution on behalf of the atheist group he runs.
He filled out the form on the spot, giving the staffer $100, and wrote in “Muskogee Atheist Community” at the bottom of the donation sheet.
Matt told me the staffer took the money and form, said “God bless you,” and left.
An hour later, he received a phone call from her:
“She called my desk phone at work and told me that they would not be accepting our donation because it would go against everything they believe in,” Wilbourn said.
The employee told Wilbourn he would need to change the name on the donation in order for the home to accept the money, Wilbourn refused, and the employee said the money would be returned.
Wilbourn says an employee of the home told him they are primarily funded by the American Baptist Churches Association. He and his wife are the co-founders for the Muskogee Atheist Community.
Think about that for a moment. A Baptist-run charity that cares for “American Indian children that are in out-of-home placement as a result of abuse and neglect” rejected money to help those kids because it came from an atheist group.As if money that touches an atheist’s hands is somehow dirty.
It makes you wonder what, exactly, they think goes “against everything they believe in.” What are they opposed to? The notion that atheists can also be kind and generous?
Matt and his wife Keli spoke to their atheist group and it became very clear that none of the members wanted the money back. They were proud that Matt made a donation on their behalf to help those children, and they wanted the money to go toward that cause.
So Matt made a counter-offer to the Children’s Home.
Forget the $100. He wanted to give them $250. Surely they wouldn’t reject that much money.
But they did. They rejected $250 because it came from the Muskogee Atheists.
That’s when Matt and Keli decided they would give even more.
“Everyone has a price,” Matt told me.
It was almost a mind game: How much cash could atheists raise for a Baptist charity before the employees finally said, okay, okay, we’ll take your dirty heathen money?
Matt and Keli began a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to raise even more money and they’re at $625 as of this writing.
Would the Baptist group reject a donation of $625 because it came from atheists? How about $1,000? At what point would they just suck it up and realize this isn’t about a theological disagreement? This is about two groups of people wanting to improve the lives of children who deserve a break.
Matt was shocked that they said no to $100, much less the amount he’s raised so far. He told me tonight, “I think it’s horrible. They’re literally placing their religion ahead of the betterment of the children that they supposedly care for.”
For now, the GoFundMe page amount seems to go up every time you refresh the page. I realize some of you may balk at the fact that the money is going to a religious charity, but why would you say no to helping these children? The Muskogee Atheist Community wants to do their part to help them out.
Let’s hope the Murrow Indian Children’s Home accepts whatever money is raised.
If they don’t, though, Matt said any money raised will go to Camp Quest.